BANGKOK (AP) – Trade ministers from the Pacific Rim discussed ways to build back better from the pandemic in an online meeting yesterday hosted by New Zealand.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum has long focussed on dismantling trade barriers. The meeting of its trade ministers was convened virtually, given the travel restrictions prevailing in the region as coronavirus outbreaks flare in many countries still struggling to obtain and deploy enough COVID-19 vaccines.
On the agenda was a statement on aiding the movement of essential goods needed to fight the pandemic, in line with global trade rules that have been strained in recent years, especially during the administration of United States (US) President Donald Trump who favoured striking trade deals with individual countries.
The trade ministers attending the meeting conferred with business leaders on Friday on ways to better manage the health and economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.
“We must ensure that trade plays a role in combatting the worst, continuing effects of COVID-19 through open and unrestricted trade in vaccines, essential medical supplies and associated products,” said Rachel Taulelei, chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council.
In many countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the share of people vaccinated so far is in the low single digits. That includes places like Thailand and Taiwan that initially managed to avoid initial massive outbreaks but now are contending with their worst flare-ups.
APEC members Japan, South Korea and New Zealand are ranked among the worst among all developed nations in vaccinating their people for COVID-19, below many developing countries such as Brazil and India. Australia is also performing comparatively poorly.